AUSTIN – Anxious fans around the world have breathlessly analyzed each new bit of footage that has been released from the Gareth Edwards-directed “Godzilla,” which arrives in theaters on May 16th, hoping that this will time, they will recognize the iconic monster, praying that this will not be a repeat of the awful 1998 movie.
I think it's safe for fans everywhere to relax.
One of the events at this year's SXSW festival was a special screening of the 1954 original version of “Gojira,” the film that was re-edited with new footage when it was released in America and retitled “Godzilla.” Rialto Films has held the American distribution rights to the Toho production for a while now, and this will actually be the second time they've done a national theatrical roll-out of the original movie.
SXSW announced that they would have Gareth Edwards in attendance tonight to discuss his new version of the icon in a Q&A, but most people seemed to suspect that something else was going on. I heard plenty of speculation from people who thought it would turn out to be a surprise screening of the entire film, but I knew that wasn't the case. Instead, Edwards brought one scene from the film, complete with the finished score by Alexandre Desplat, and Mondo created a special poster that was given to every person as they left the theater.
Obviously, one scene is not enough to judge how the new film will be as a whole, but it was a careful chosen moment from a key sequence in the film that features what feels like the first full reveal of Godzilla in the film. It takes place about 40 pages into the script, in Hawaii, where a military team has tracked a monster called the Hokmuto to where it is feeding on nuclear submarines.
The military isn't alone, though. Onboard the USS Harry Truman, the character Honda, played by Ken Watanabe, is the first to notice something heading towards the aircraft carrier in the water. On the shore, tourists notice that something's wrong, and it's more than just the dense military presence offshore and in the sky overhead.
There's a monorail train near the airport where Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is riding in from his flight, and he's watching a Japanese boy named Ichiro. Ford also sees the heavier-than-normal military presence, and it worries him.
Things start to go crazy almost immediately. The power all over Honolulu starts to go out, trapping Ford and Ichiro and the other passengers. Tourists begin to flee when they realize there's a tsunami-sized wave rolling in from offshore. And Honda watches as something swims under the aircraft carrier, heading for landfall.
Several of the shots from the new trailer for the film are from this one sequence, and we keep seeing hints of Godzilla, pieces of him, a tail as he heads behind a building or part of his body as he passes by or his giant dorsal fins cutting through the water.
As the wave smashes through downtown Honolulu, the Hokmuto arrives at the airport, and it begins to smash the monorail tracks. Ford manages to save Ichiro, but just barely, and it looks like everyone at the airport is in danger as the creature smashes its way around the tarmac. There's an incredible tracking shot inside the airport, looking out through giant glass panels at the Hokmuto smashing airplanes and causing panic, and it's only as the camera stops that we see two very large feet, dwarfing the Hokmuto, step into frame.
The shot ends as the camera pans up the full length of Godzilla's body, finally revealing him in all his pissed-off glory, and as he roars a challenge, the Hokmuto screeching its own challenge back at him, the clip finally cut to black.
It is impressive to see how right they got the design for Godzilla. If people hate this movie, it won't be because the design of the creature is wrong. It couldn't have been easy to pin down something that evokes all the various incarnations of this character, but that feels like an actual living, breathing animal, but it looks like they nailed it. I love how angry he looked, and while the scene cut off before Godzilla and the Hokmuto began to fight, it was pretty clear that was about to happen. At 600 feet high, Godzilla towers over the other creature, which is very bug-like, but there are plenty of secrets about the Hokmuto that weren't revealed in what we saw tonight, and the fight isn't going to be as easy as Godzilla might hope.
I'll be talking to Edwards in the morning, and I look forward to talking with him about the long strange journey he's been on trying to bring Godzilla to the screen once more.
“Godzilla” arrives in theaters May 16, 2014.